Why I Shall Always Love the Naked Blade
I wonder why so many have such a fascination with guns. Well, wonder is not such an accurate word in this case, because I have an inkling of their desires myself. I think it has something to do with the power of the weapon, the loud bang, or in the case of silencers, the little dart-like “pitew!” of the bullet leaving the barrel, the force of the recoil against your hand and arm. Or, if you happen to be poorly trained, the butt of the firearm cracking painfully against your cheek. There is something that satisfies man’s lust for power in the ability to level a heavy-caliber automatic weapon against a brick wall and see it turn into a pile of dust, to say nothing of what such a weapon does to flesh. This becomes even more apparent in science fiction, when we have weapons like phasers which can atomize a person, reducing their body to molecular dust, or the energy cannon on the Death Star, which can annihilate entire planets and star cruisers with a single shot.In the novels, of that same Lucas-verse, there is a ship titled “the Sun Crusher” which launches reactive torpedoes into the core of the star in a solar system, thereby destroying the whole area, snuffing out countless billions of lives at the touch of a button.
While I do see the appeal of various high-powered weapons in writing, for my own personal use I prefer at most a shotgun or a pair of semi-automatic pistols. Even more preferably, I would take one pistol/sawed off shotgun, and a blade of some kind. And taking things yet another step further, I would keep the blade and trade the guns out for a solid english longbow. Granted, on the battlefield, compared to what is available currently, these are not the best of choices, even though, to quote Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers, “There are no dangerous weapons; there are only dangerous men.”, yet I still have my reasons why I favor blades and bows over bullets and bombs. Especially powerful, long range weapons like inter-continental ballistic missiles and battleship railguns. To say nothing of the nuclear arsenal currently in place worldwide.
When one uses a gun, especially something like a sniper rifle, there is a sort of disconnect not present with a bow or a blade. Men are tactile creatures, part of what makes something real to us is the touch of it to our hands. This is plain to see when you talk to any race car driver or fighter pilot. They often speak of the “feel” of how the machine handles in response to their commands. There is a mental link between object and what results from using said object. When you see a target a hundred yards out, and you aim through your scope at his head, all it takes is a quick tug on the trigger and his head is now missing. The entire affair is impersonal and though you know you have killed a man, you have not truly felt yourself kill anything. You watched a man fall down a hundred yards away after you twitched your index finger. The separation between action and result is far greater when you press a button from miles above in the air and unleash a salvo of missiles that level a city block to rubble, and greater still when you press a button and a city itself is vaporized by a multi-megaton explosion a short while later.
Making killing easy, after a certain point, becomes dangerous to the morality of man, for it mentally disconnects the violence of the act from the perpetrator. There have been many times that Popes have spoken out against new and more efficient weapons in the past, and I suspect that they will continue to do so in the future, for exactly the same reason. When war becomes as easy as flipping a switch, it is harder and harder to avoid atrocity and needless bloodshed.
This is why my favorite modern weapons to use are pistols and shotguns, because while the killing is still a matter of aiming and twitching my finger, I would have to watch the man die, close enough for it to have a strong impact on my mind without any meditation on the fact that I just took a human life. I would see the blood, watch the wound appear, and the scream, if there was one, would be very audible at that range.
This is even more true with blades and bows. It takes little physical effort, in the end, to level a pistol at someone and pull the trigger, even though the emotional effort might be intense. With a shotgun, my aim need not be nearly as precise. I can knock a grown man to the ground minus large hunks of his chest with one pump and a squeeze. And be ready for the next one to come around the corner into my line of fire. With a bow, you have no such luxury, nor do you have it with a blade. When letting fly with an arrow, you have to draw the bow back, find your target, and take aim. Once you let go, you have to reach back and grab another arrow, then repeat. Now, for a trained combat archer, they could do this very well and with great speed, moreso than one might think. An average rate of fire would be roughly about one arrow every ten seconds. This is still far slower than any modern gun and requires more thought as to what you are about to do, and the tactile sensation is much greater than the pulling of a trigger, which strengthens the mental link of action to the bloody result.
With a blade of any kind, you have to really, really want the other man to be severely wounded or dead. You have to hack, stab, and slash until he is unable to fight back or dead, and either option takes a heavy amount of willpower behind it to accomplish. I assure you, if you run into a room with a machete and there is an enemy waiting there with one as well, you will feel the effort it takes to get out of the way when he swings at you, the weight of the weapons when they clash against one another, and you will see the agony that man goes through when you take off one of his limbs with yours. You honestly have to want someone to go through horrific pain when you swing at them with a sword or axe or mace.
My second reason for choosing older weaponry over newer things is purely aesthetic. While I know there will be those who argue that a gun is beautiful, and I may not necessarily disagree with them on that, I would say there is something more wholesome about an object that requires the personal handiwork of a smithy than there is about something that you can produce with the right amount of factory equipment. While is is true that now one can mass-produce blades, as in the machete example I gave above, in the past, even the weapons of the common footman had a fair degree of the touch of a smith’s hand behind them. This is why, even when comparing the millions of guns churned out for use by the military today and the thousands of weapons you see being industrially forged in the bowels of Isengard in the Two Towers movie, the blades and shields of the Uruk-hai still are a sight more beautiful, in all their blackened anonymity.
As I said initially, the aesthetics of guns and bombs are plain, they are about the destruction they can cause, whether in style or in magnitude. Any sap can pick up those weapons, even a sniper rifle, and cause some damage. While you can’t necessarily fly a plane, the button one presses to unleash that thunderous fury is usable by a five-year-old child. Arguably, those with special training can render an even better output of damage and death your average person, and in some cases, I will say that using any weapon can be turned into an art form. If you doubt this, you need only look below.
Over-the-top wire-fu and martial arts aside, you can hand a dummy a sword, and he might be able to swing it, but his odds are better in an even-weaponed gunfight, for guns are the great equalizer. You can be bigger and stronger and it will not save you from the bullet stuck between your eyes. You can be faster, but bullets once fired are pretty much impossible to dodge in real life. You can, however, try to watch where the muzzle is pointing, but that’s another story. You can have all the skill in the world, but one shot can render you just as lifeless. As opposed to this blunt bang-you’re-dead approach, let’s look at how bows and swords are used.
You can be fat with quick hands and a good eye, and use a gun effectively. You need to have good coordination, footwork, stamina, agility, and strength to take on a man with a blade. You can also add your personality to the weapon, giving it a more human touch. When you fight you develop your own style, your own flair, with how you use a sword. With a gun, well, while there are options, I will say that it does not seem like there are very many ways you can fight with one that are unique to you without throwing in the field of combat, which is true for any weapon. A sword you put your soul into, a gun, well, it is more of a tool than a work of art.